Today’s Google Doodle: Fanny Eaton

 

IMG_0989

Oh my goodness, I feel so emotional having seen today’s google doodle. Anyone who has chanced upon my blog in the past probably came for my art history content; specifically a number of posts about the Pre-Raphaelite model and Muse Fanny Eaton. The posts about Mrs Eaton remain to this day the most read posts on my blog and with good reason.

In my estimation Mrs Eaton is on an equal footing with Elizabeth Siddal as an important model, however unlike the aforementioned, Mrs Eaton has gone pretty much unnoticed until recent times.

 

Mulatto_Woman_1861

The balance was somewhat redressed in the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition ‘Pre-Raphaelite Sisters’ exhibition 2019. In which a number of paintings for which Mrs Eaton was the model was included. A number of people (in addition to my own modest contribution) have worked tirelessly to raise the profile of this much overlooked model, including the art historian Jan Marsh and Mrs Eaton’s descendent Brian Eaton. They too must feel elated to see today’s google doodle; as it firmly sites Mrs Eaton among the canon of Pre-Raphaelite stunners.

 

Previous posts on Fanny Eaton can be found here http://stellahalliwell.co.uk/2012/01/

and here http://stellahalliwell.co.uk/pre-raphaelites/women-from-nowhere-the-pre-raphaelite-other/

 

We have an Allotment! and a Trip Down Memory Lane

IMG_1411

 

 

 

 

Back in January we applied to the local council for an allotment and received the exciting news at the beginning of the last week that one had become available. After making an appointment with the site manager to go and see the plot last Wednesday we came away brimming with excitement and full of ideas.

We are planning to keep it pretty old school by planting fairly traditional crops directly into the earth rather than making raised beds -which look very pretty but offer us no advantage. The crops we have discussed thus far includes kale, carrots, potatoes, broccoli and a mix of culinary and medicinal herbs etc, crops that my maternal Granddad would have easily recognised.

My Grandad was a gentle man and a gentleman, who was also a keen veg grower. Occupying a corner spot, my Grandparents house had a generous garden in which to grow things. The garden to the front was full of pretty flowers and shrubs, while in the larger side garden cabbages and kale stood in precision rows like a troops on parade. It was here, in this garden that my Grandad thought it would be a wheeze for my sister, Deb and me to take photos of cabbage patch dolls amid the cabbages (Sadly I couldn’t find those photos). At the rear, beans and peas covered cane supports, which to our youthful imaginations were teepees in which we would sit and play.

IMG_0854

I digressed somewhat there didn’t I! Our hoped planting for the allotment isn’t born simply out a romanticised nostalgia for (my) childhood but more practically, it’s a reflection of the vegetables that we eat in quantity. Although our allotment is a half plot – approximately 5 metres wide by 26 metres long- there is still plenty of scope for growing and we hope that by next year that between the greenhouse at home and the allotment we will be growing a good proportion of our food. Until then of course we have our veg box from Riverford Organics, with whom we a really impressed.

Stella x

Satisfying Autumn Eats – Plant Based Frittata

As nights draw in and the day for the clocks going back in the U.K looms closer, home becomes ever more important;  particularly for those of us in the UK living under the most stringent covid-19 restrictions. Having a more introverted personality, the restrictions aren’t so much of a burden for my beloved and I, we have regular contact with family and many of our pastimes being out in the open and enjoying nature – pubs notwithstanding.

We have been using our time in a variety of creative pursuits, my beloved is back at his art and I am enjoying having the time to write and cook without the distractions of life. I have been particularly busy in the kitchen this week coming up with new recipes that are filling, comforting, mindful of my dietary restrictions but also make the best use of our veg box.

I have really been enjoying the veg box. It being a ‘get what you’re given’ scenario it has re-ignited my love of cooking. It’s not that I’m reinventing the wheel or anything but simply adapting recipes in my repertoire to include ingredients from the veg box. I had a lot of fun this week experimenting with my chickpea frittata recipe -see below- in which I used summer greens, leeks, garlic and various spices. The end result was much more delicious (even if I do say so myself) than my original recipe – even my beloved, who is wary of certain veg (because they taste too ‘green’) was rapturous over it.

78A790BF-7052-4E36-8B1E-BA9801AB6726

 

 

 

 

 

 

The joy of this recipe is that it is gluten and dairy free and is filled with tasty seasonal produce.

For the Frittata batter you will need:

1 ¾ cups of gram flour (chickpea flour)
1 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp of garlic granules
1 tsp of cumin
¾ tsp of caraway seeds
½ tsp salt
1 ¾ cups of water

For the filling you will need:
1 Leek
3 good sized leaves from summer greens (stalks removed) cut into narrow strips
3 cloves of garlic (grated)
5 mushrooms cut into chunks
25 grams of dairy free butter plus extra to add by eye as you sauté the filling. (vegetarians can use dairy butter if they desire)
1tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp celery salt
dash of olive oil

Melt butter in a study skillet (preferably one with a lid) add a dash of olive oil to prevent your butter burning. Sauté the leek until soft then add garlic, greens, cumin seeds, ginger and celery salt. When the greens are soft add mushrooms, cover with a lid and turn the heat right down.

I add additional butter as needed, You don’t want your filling swimming but you don’t want it to burn either. When the mushrooms have cooked turn off the heat, preheat your oven at 180 degrees C.
Prepare your batter by sieving your gram flour into a mixing bowl. Add the other dry ingredients and sir through the flour. Add 1 cup of water and start to whisk using either a manual balloon whisk or an electric hand whisk until smooth. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of water slowly, your aiming for a smooth batter with a similar viscosity to a Yorkshire pudding or pancake batter.

Add your sautéed veg and sir through. Pour your mix into a well greased silicone or ceramic quiche dish and bake for around 45 to 50 mins . To check that your frittata is cooked slide in a metal skewer or knife, if the knife comes out clean it is done.

The frittata can be eaten warm or cold with a delicious side salad or lightly steamed vegetables.

Ordering a Veg Box and Ethical Considerations

IMG_0776Is it slightly bonkers to be excited about a veg box? I’ve just ordered our first box from Riverford Organic Farmers and am really looking forward to receiving it. We opted for the zero packaging organic veg box (priced at £15.35), as this is something very important to us and we have been trying (and sadly often failing during the lockdown period) to reduce our non recyclable waste.

One of the knock on effects of the Corona Virus pandemic has been the closure of small family run businesses. I am thinking very specifically of the greengrocers in our local town centre where we often bought our fruit and veg prior to the pandemic. We loved this particular greengrocer because most of the veg was loose so you could pick the volume you wanted and brown paper bags were provided to put them in (the above photo was taken pre-lockdown and is typically what we purchased from there). Excellent – little waste and no plastic! Plus, it was a local business and by choosing them we were helping to buoy the local economy.

Sadly the shop being very small (very difficult to socially distance) and shopping in the larger supermarkets being more expedient and often cheaper; was fatal for our greengrocers. Large supermarket chains benefit from economies of scale i.e purchasing power: they can buy in greater volume at a cheaper price, making it difficult for smaller businesses to compete on price and availability. Ever was it so – but with the additional strain of lockdown restrictions and social distancing it has became unviable for many small businesses to continue operating. I must confess that I was complicit in this shift. Owing to travel restrictions we were forced to solely use the nearby supermarket. It’s sad.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’ve replaced one big business with another by opting for Riverford over the supermarket. The difference is, is that Riverford Organics is a certified B Corporation, meaning that it is an ethical business striving to benefit people and the planet over profit. Naturally I would encourage people to support local businesses first, but where this is difficult, choose the most ethical option you can.

Our first box is scheduled to be delivered next Thursday and I plan on writing up my first impressions of the quality and value for money of the box when it arrives. I’m really hoping that it will also inspire some kitchen creativity as we have become stuck in something of a vegetable rut recently – first world problems eh!

 

 

Just as an additional note, I am in no way affiliated with Riverford Organic Farmers and plan to shop around and try out other B Corp veg box suppliers.

High Days, Holidays, Simple and Slow Days

‘Tottie! You don’t know how beautiful Silverdale is and a tower of our own! Think of that! its a sort of country you never saw before. I’ll answer for it.’
(Elizabeth Gaskell in a letter to Eliza Fox, May 1852)

IMG_0775

In her letter, Elizabeth Gaskell was writing of Lindeth Tower in Silverdale, and a more beautiful and dreamy spot you will struggle to spy. On our many walks in the area we have often passed the tower and admired it, little thinking that one day we might stay there. But, stay there we did.

Built in 1842 by the Fleetwood family – a shipping family, who gave their name to the Port of Fleetwood- as a summer house and folly, the stone tower sits in a beautiful walled garden with panoramic views over the coast; presumably a means by which the family could keep a close and careful eye on their ships while on summer retreat. Silverdale became a favourite holiday destination for Elizabeth Gaskell and her family (her daughters Meta & Julia are described as ‘enthusiasts for Silverdale’ whereas her daughter Marianne  less so). There are numerous mentions of Lindeth Tower and Silverdale in Gaskell’s letters, some describe the activities the family undertake (farming and country pursuits), some include descriptions concerning the quirks of their accommodation; i.e having to walk across a courtyard in all weathers when transferring a leg of mutton from the larder to the kitchen, and then others including this one; in which she describes the tower thus:

‘In the garden, half flower half kitchen is an old square tower, or ‘Peel’ – a remnant of the Border towers.’

That Gaskell thought the tower to be so old, speaks of its dreamy, fairy-tale quality. Especially when one considers, that when she wrote those lines to Charles Eliot Norton in 1858, the tower was in fact only 16 years old. It seems that the romance of the place captured her imagination and so she transported it to another place and time. I completely understand how she felt, the tower wove a spell over me too. There is something folkloric about it, one could easily imagine border skirmishes or daring deeds having occurred there or indeed it featuring in one of Sir Walter Scott’s ballads. It feels like a place outside reality, a liminal space in which a great change can occur. That change of course being one in the heart, mind and soul.

IMG_0668

As a place to stay the tower is simply stunning. Each morning we breakfasted on the roof terrace, and in the evenings we curled up in the cosy sitting room with a book, a roaring fire and a glass of wine. By day we walked. Silverdale is beautiful and is a designated ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’; the landscape always strikes me as magical and otherworldly as it shifts smoothly from twee country lanes to woodlands and then just as seamlessly to rugged coast. It’s a wonderful place to slow down and be present, to enjoy the simple things like walking and soaking up the wonderful scenery. It’s a place to press pause and breathe.

Silverdale village is relatively small but does have a lovely hostelry, The Silverdale Hotel, where of course food and a libation can be purchased. In nearby Arnside; a slightly larger destination, there are more places to eat and drink, some little shops selling pretty gifts etc and a small art gallery. There is of course Arnside Tower to see and of course, no visit is complete without a walk on the Knott.

IMG_0710

Next time we hope to stay longer. My beloved and I both noted that as lovely as it was to walk extensively, it would have been just as lovely to spend the day reading and relaxing in the tower and gardens. We had also planned a visit to Cartmel Priory but ran out of time, so plan to do this during our next stay.

IMG_0738
To close -as I began- I cite Elizabeth Gaskell once more, who can say in a few words what I could not in a thousand:
‘…..we all go to our dear old Silverdale on the borders of Morecambe Bay, to run wild there…’

Bookish Loveliness: July

Is there anything better than discovering something that entertains, informs or just brightens your day?

Wow, what a month it has been in terms of books. My first shout-out goes to the debut novel ‘Seducing Hope’ by Adaline Winters; for lovers of fantasy fiction this is a must read. I don’t want to reveal too much about about the plot as it would ruin the denouement at the end of the novel. I will only reveal that at the novel’s core is a Greek myth that has been given the most fabulous contemporary twist. The female protagonist, Natia Waterford, is strong with just the right amount of sass to make her role-model worthy but also vulnerable and flawed enough to make her human and completely relatable.

Concomitant with the fabulous narrative comes incredible writing; something I feel isn’t always the case with debut novelists. I have found many a debut novel fabulous in narrative but flawed in execution. Not so in the case of Winters; she has a beautiful economy of language that scene sets and perfectly evokes atmosphere and emotion. That kind of shorthand is something that often is only often evinced when a writer has honed their craft over many novels.

Seducing Hope is available on Amazon Kindle and can be found here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Seducing-Hope-Adaline-Winters-ebook/dp/B08DJ5Q7J1/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=adaline+Winters&qid=1596549491&sr=8-1

All this talk of of well written, debut fantasy novels allows me to segue nicely into my favourite fantasy author: Robin Hobb. Having read pretty much everything she has written under the aforementioned pseudonym, I began reading some of her earlier works (written under the name of Megan Lindholm). I was a little apprehensive to read her earlier works for some of the reasons I outlined in review of Winters’s, ‘Seducing Hope’. However, I need not have feared. From the get-go the writing in the Ki and Vandien quartet of novels is great – not quite on a par with later works written as Hobb but fabulous nonetheless. I read all four: ‘Harpy’s Flight (1983), The Windsingers (1984), The Limbreth Gate (1984) and The Luck of the Wheels (1989) in quick succession and felt quite bereft on completing the final novel as I just wanted them to go on and on. Ki and Vandien are captivating protagonists, and as such it is difficult not to become completely absorbed in the (mis) adventures of their peripatetic life. All four novels work as both a group and as stand alone reads. Each book is a contained adventure rather than a set of four with an overarching narrative; an approach I found incredibly enjoyable as it allowed Lindholm the space to really explore and develop both her characters and the world they inhabit in an organic way.

Another book that has been a revelation but couldn’t be more different than my previous recommendations is ‘Skincare: The Ultimate No-nonsense Guide’ by Caroline Hirons. I can honestly say it has really opened my eyes as to how I should be caring for my skin. I should really caveat this, I have been a skin and beauty junkie since my teens and have a fair knowledge of the advances that have been made in skincare, but what I will say is that up until now I have been a bit “all the gear and no idea”. What Hirons’s book has taught me is what to use and when, where to save money and when to spend. Because I already had most of the skincare Hirons recommends for my age group I was able to establish a cohesive and comprehensive routine immediately. Using the right combination of products in the right order is already paying dividends. I’d even go so far as to say that the book has saved me money; in that, I’m now getting the absolute best out of products I already own, rather than constantly buying and trying new things.

When it comes to fiction I have two modes: fantasy (as has been evidenced) or 19th Century literature. ‘Ruth’ (1853) by Elizabeth Gaskell, my final July read falls into the latter group. There is so much to love about Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing: her predilection for portmanteau words, her plucky female protagonist and the challenging of societal norms; all of which are bound up in an Austen-like refinement and gentility, that engenders sympathy rather than contempt for the improprieties enacted by the titular protagonist of the novel; Ruth.

Ruth is a naïve and innocent girl who is imposed upon by a young aristocratic bounder by the name of Mr Bellingham. Having been seduced by Mr Bellingham and her character irrevocably damaged -owing to them living together unwed, which would have been shocking and anathema to Gaskell’s middle class Victorian audience-  Bellingham’s interest in Ruth wanes and she finds herself abandoned, pregnant and on the verge of suicide until a kindly dissenting Minister, Mr Benson and his sister, Faith take her in. Having given Ruth a home they decide to conceal Ruth’s unmarried status by introducing her to the town of Eccleston as Mrs Denbigh; publicly naming her a widow and -by choosing a family name- a distant relative. Ruth ensues on a redemptive journey, devoted to raising her son Leonard to be an upstanding and god-fearing boy. Naturally things go awry and the truth of Leonard’s birth is revealed, leading Ruth to be shunned by society. But such is Ruth’s true goodness of nature that she eventually redeems herself within the eyes of the town. There is of course more to the story but I am loathe to reveal too much should you wish to read it yourself.

Love and Light

Stella

Days of Clover: Planning, Building and Growing

Over the last month we have been busy, busy, bu-sy with garden projects. New fence posts have been concreted in and new fence panels erected after high winds blew the old fence down. A new deck has been built outside the garden studio, which i’m very excited about as it will be my new meditation and yoga spot – when the weather permits, of course! Some very exciting house improvements are starting to come to fruition too, but I’ll save those for another post.

We were really lucky; not long before the fence was blown down we decided to move our greenhouse away from it. Had the greenhouse remained where it was we would have been facing a lot of broken glass in addition to the splintery wooden mass that was unceremoniously deposited in a great heap. Because there is always a silver lining; replacing the fence made us look at the space in a new light and we plan to use the area for growing food. Although not the biggest of areas, we do think we can make it work for us and are quite excited to get going with the growing. However, Our next job, is to order some replacement glass panels for the greenhouse. We did decide (rather stupidly) to glaze the greenhouse on a very windy day: a very Terry and June debacle ensued, resulting in numerous broken panes. We also ran out of glazing clips to hold the glass in so couldn’t finish installing the glass we had. Extras have now arrived, so work can recommence.

IMG_0219

 

 

 

 

 

There is already in place a large brick raised bed that forms part of the retaining wall that separates the upper garden from the lower garden and lawns. This raised bed is already brimming with culinary herbs for cooking and making teas. I did try to grow spinach in there too this year and although the seedlings came up, they were very quickly crowded out by the well established herbs.

IMG_0141

The rear elevation of the garage provides us with a handy spot to espalier the greengage tree that my beloved gave me for my birthday this year. I also plan to re-pot a lovely gooseberry bush I already have and I’m mulling adding a raspberry bush too, to create a soft fruit area. I’ll probably move the potatoes from their current location on the patio – where they sit admidst pots of alliums and lilies and look a little out of place- to the new ‘market garden’. We grow potatoes in those growing sacks that you can pick up in Poundland. We’ve been growing them this for years and always get a decent yield.

At the moment there is a large, very dilapidated and ugly coal bunker alongside the boundary fence between us and our lovely neighbour. The previous owner of the house filled it with compost and used it as a planter. We had thought to re-purpose it to grow salad and vegetables in, but given its poor state and that it previously was a working coal bunker, we didn’t think it prudent to risk contaminants leeching out of the concrete and back into the soil. We will replace the coal bunker with some wooden raised beds instead, which will mean we can also move them if we need to.

IMG_0221

 

Not so pretty coal bunker and mess!

 

 

 

If anyone has any fruit and veg recommendations or growing tips please leave them in the comments.

Love and light

Stella

Life: Planning, Projects and Poetry

I’ve been feeling good lately……really good. I’m brimming with energy, expansive of heart and mind and throwing myself into the projects I’ve been intending to do for ages. I’ve really been enjoying getting back into research and have started ploughing through my (unfinished) PhD on the influence of folk song and ballads on Pre-Raphaelite visual and literary culture, to see what can be salvaged from the wreckage and turned into something useful. There are some really interesting nuggets in it and what I’m now trying to decide is; do I turn what I have into a book; produce a series of articles for journals, or and this is the big one do I consider returning to university to complete it? Either way it’s all pretty exciting to think about.

I’m also underway planning a book about holistic living. It started as a recipe book but has grown organically into something broader that takes in my triumvirate of home, health and the arts. For as long as I can remember all the things that constitute a healthy, happy and sustainable home has been at the centre of my existence. I have shelves full of household manuals, cookery books and art and design books (vintage and modern) and call it synchronicity or a zeitgeist but everything seems to have come together right now for me to start work on something of my own.

I suddenly feel like I’ve got an awful lot to say and share.

Speaking of things to share; while I was sorting through boxes of notebooks I found one full of poetry that I wrote between 1995 -2003. Although much of it is pretty amateurish, there are odd ones that although not literary masterpieces -I’m no Christina Rossetti or Emily Bronte, that’s for sure- have some merit. I found the following, written in July 1998 and think it has a nice, bright atmosphere to it.

Enchantment

From earth to root
through trunk to heart,
a net of esoteric whisper
pulsing in the quickened dark,
weaves the breath of the awakened.
From heart to branch
through twig and sap,
rising to a leafy mantle
flows the light of the enchanted one,
glowing bright, within the dark.

Love and Light

Stella x

How do you do the least harm possible when it becomes detrimental to do the least harm possible?

Over the last twelve months quite a number of the plant-based/vegan diet and lifestyle influencers have come out and admitted that for health reasons they are no longer able to follow the lifestyle they have previously advocated. I do not judge any of them for this. I too have had my struggles on a plant-based diet and have the nerve damage to prove it. What does surprise me, however is how many of the former influencers become full on carnivores. They seem to just walk away from their former beliefs without a backward glance.

I fully believe that a plant -based diet is incredibly healthy and the most ethical and morally correct diet to follow. I know many advocates of plant based eating who thrive and are exemplars of fantastically good health.  But as I have already alluded I, myself have had terrible struggles with being fully plant-based and my health. As such, over the last three years I have spent a lot of time educating myself on how I can be vital and healthy while following a plant-based diet. Cue several courses on nutrition and extensive reading on both plant based living, my two health conditions and empirical observations based on self conducted dietary trials.

Any good nutrition course will recommend minimal consumption of animal based products and encourage obtaining protein from things like beans and legumes, Tofu, nuts and seeds etc. Likewise all the good plant-based/vegan resources advocate taking a B12 supplement and to seek out plant-based foods that have been fortified with it. B12 naturally occurs in animal products like dairy, meat, fish and eggs and without it we would experience weakness, tiredness, nerve damage and vision loss (to name but a few) so it essential if you are plant based to ensure that you are properly dosed.

However it is here that my own tale begins. I was supplementing and consuming fortified products and yet I still ended up with a severe deficiency in B12 and a plethora of other vitamins. The problem being for me that I have both Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and severe IBS. The Hashimoto’s means that I have very low stomach acid and impaired digestion, meaning that my body does not get all the nutrients out of my food; incidentally, B12 deficiency is very common even among meat and dairy eating Hashimoto’s patients. To manage the symptoms of Hashimoto’s and reduce the risk of an autoimmune attack I have also had to make impose further dietary restrictions including eliminating any thing anything soya based, (tofu etc) from my diet. I also can’t consume gluten, alcohol, caffeine, cruciferous vegetables (kale, cabbage, broccoli etc) or (irrelevantly in my case) dairy.

Similarly the IBS has it’s own list of food restrictions, in particular those high in “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols” – FODMAP, for short. Foods high in FODMAP often trigger an IBS attack (diarrhoea, stomach cramping, fatigue and brain fog) and include various fruits and vegetables, but most significantly in relation to this post, legumes such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans, soybeans. All of which as we know, are the main source of protein in a plant-based diet.

However, like the the foods listed on the Hashimoto’s list rather than just accept that I can’t eat these things I have endeavoured to conduct various food trials over a 3 year period and see what my limitations are. My aim has been to reduce the frequency and duration of both autoimmune and IBS attacks while maintaining a diet that is predominantly plant-based. By the end of 2019 I had a solid idea of what I can and can’t eat. Small quantities of kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils are OK; but by small I mean small and not enough to fulfil my body’s daily protein requirements. Soya is a total no go. In addition to the problems soya products cause with regards to the absorption of my Levothyroxine, they also causes – and there is no nice way to put this-……….bowelmageddon. Which in itself might sound trivial but the ‘upset’ as with an IBS attack can last up to a week and affects the digestion of food I consume post a ‘soya event’. I do not function during these occurrences and am bed bound for the duration.

After much experimentation I have arrived at place that works for me physically. But morally and ethically I feel very much between a rock and hard place. I have reintroduced eggs and in the full interest of disclosure haven’t had a problem with B12 since. I also eat oily fish a couple of times a week and although I am even less comfortable with that, and aim to eventually eliminate it, I accept it is where I am for now. As such, I continue to push my diet and continually test the bounds of how much I can go without further damaging my health. It hasn’t been an easy journey so far and as yet, is by no means over.

I think the lesson here is to adapt when you need to but strive to do the least harm possible. I knew that when I needed to make adjustments for the sake of my health that I didn’t want to suddenly abandon my beliefs. To that end the majority of my meals are still completely plant-based; and invariably when I share food on my Instagram account, I share only plant based food. Not because I am trying to deceive but because I firmly believe that plant based is best.
Love and Light (from a work in progress)

Stella xx

Living the Good Life : Going Natural

reworkLike most people I am super conscious of doing my best to care for the environment, and over the years have addressed some of my less Eco friendly habits and made a number of simple changes to my lifestyle. Particularly when it comes to cleaning materials. In themselves these changes aren’t dramatic; just little tweaks here and there but I’ve always felt that if we all make little changes it is far better than a few people going all out. Don’t get me wrong, I am filled with admiration for those who live a completely natural and zero waste lifestyle, but I also realise that ingrained habits and fear of change can make such a huge life adaptation seem insurmountable. Not to mentioned the perceived expense of an Eco lifestyle. I am quite a thrifty person by nature and loathe waste – a habit I learned at the knee of my maternal Grandparents and great Aunt, who were very much of the make do and mend generation.

If like me, ‘speed clean with me’ videos on Youtube are a guilty pleasure, then you will also be aware of the sheer volume of different cleaning products these guys and gals employ to ensure their homes sparkle like a new pin. I watch with a fascinated horror as they mix and match the various chemical laden products; each of them sporting a different synthetic perfume – it makes me cough just thinking about it. The truth of the matter is you don’t need very much to keep your house clean and smelling fresh.

A simple mix of distilled water, bicarbonate of soda and a few drops of essential oils (peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender and lemon are all antibacterial) makes an effective cleaner for kitchens and bathrooms and will leave the room smelling heavenly. Borax added to water can be used to remove mold and mildew, and pure soap flakes dissolved in a little hot water can be used in place of commercially bought washing up liquid

Likewise, My favourite cleaner for the hob and oven is a sprinkle of bicarbonate of soda, the pulp from our home-made lemonade and a spritz of white vinegar or lemon juice. There is something incredibly satisfying about how the bicarb fizzes when the lemons and juice/vinegar are added – mad scientist vibes abound! Once my potion is applied I walk away and let it do it’s thing for while, then just wipe it off with a clean cloth.
Speaking of cloths; I have to admit I have fallen prey to the lure of brightly coloured and patterned microfibre cloths in the past. It is regrettable given that they constantly shed microplastics into the environment when in use but even more so when being laundered. I intend to use them until they get too tatty but rather than replacing them with new ones I’ve earmarked some bath towels that are looking past best that I will cut down to make new cloths. In the meantime I’m going to invest in a ‘Guppy Friend’, which is a wash bag that you place all your synthetics in that prevents the microplastics entering the environment. A guppy friend is a good purchase for washing all your Yoga and fitness wear in too, as these types of garment being made mainly of synthetic fabrics tend to be one of the worst offenders.

When it comes to clothes, know your materials – buy good quality natural fabrics. Firstly they tend to last longer but also wash and wear better. Fabrics to look out for are cotton, linen (sometimes called flax), ramie, viscose, silk and wool/cashmere – I know the last three are a controversial suggestion if you are vegan, however if you are purchasing these materials pre-loved (95% of my clothing is pre-loved) I personally think it is better to buy those than buy synthetics like polyester, acrylic and nylon. Synthetic fabrics should be no go because of the aforementioned release of microplastics. When you consider that a 6kg load of synthetic fabrics releases around 700,000 microplastic fibres into the environment it really gives you pause for thought.

As if our clothes releasing microplastics wasn’t bad enough just scan your laundry detergent many of those also contain them too, in fact many commercial cleaning products do and are terribly damaging to wildlife and the environment. Try soapnuts in your laundry instead. They are completely natural, can be composted and can be used a couple of times before they are depleted of their natural saponins. If you miss your clothes being scented add a couple of drops of essential oil to the fabric softener compartment instead of the aforementioned softener. We’ve tried everything from tried and tested lavender to not so conventional star anise in our laundry and love both. Peppermint and eucalyptus is a lovely combination too.

In coming weeks I will be sharing more of the recipes for our home-made cleaning products and possibly make a Youtube video on the subject too.

Love and Light

Stella